Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "The Conduit for Influence"

This poem is spillover from the March 1, 2016 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by a prompt from [personal profile] ari_the_dodecahedron. It also fills the "integrity" square in my 2-29-16 card for the Villain Bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette. It belongs to the Officer Pink thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.

Warning: This poem contains more angst about Turq's past, along with his present situation of resource scarcity and emotional flux. It's mostly an upbeat look at ways in which Ansel reaches out to him, though.

"The Conduit for Influence"

Ansel knew that Turq was
following him, and had been
following him for some time now.

That was all right with him.

Ansel knew that most people
were a lot more concerned about
keeping their location private, which
was a good thing because that kind of
sensitive information could hurt them
if it fell into the wrong hands.

He just didn't feel the same way
himself, because he was a cop
and so people needed to know
where he was more often than not.

He understood, too, that this knowledge
was more one way than the other, and
unlikely to equalize any time soon.

Turq couldn't tolerate that type of
connection yet -- even an offer
would jerk him up short like
a dog choking on a leash.

He could watch, though.

Turq was always watching
someone, and honestly Ansel
would rather it was himself than
whatever pack of hoodlums Turq
had found on the streets.

Their relationship might not be,
strictly speaking, the sort of thing that
a high school personal health textbook
would hold up as a wholesome example.

Turq was damaged in ways that
made it hard for him to relate to people
in a healthy manner, most of the time.

He could learn, though.

Ansel knew all about boundaries
and relationships and social dynamics.
He'd gone into community outreach
precisely because he was good at
connecting with vulnerable kids.

He could handle Turq's skittishness
and petty theft and panic attacks,
modify his own boundaries to account
for how patchy Turq's were, and
buffer some of the worst effects.

Ansel understood that
the most potent conduit for
influence was trust.

After all the horrible things that had
happened to Turq -- of which Ansel
had only heard a small fraction -- it was
difficult for him to rely on anyone, let alone
climb into the more rarefied territory of trust.

It was happening, though, hour by hour
that they spent together, inch by inch
as Turq circled slowly closer.

So much had gone wrong that
Turq couldn't talk about it much,
not yet, not without choking up
and starting to shiver from
something more than cold.

He could listen, though.

Ansel let him watch,
and listen, and learn
from simple observation.

It was second nature for a cop --
a good cop, anyway -- to live as
a role model, especially when
he was out in public.

The more he could show people
what good behavior looked like,
the less likely they were to slip
into the kind of behavior that
required calling the police.

While some cops thought that it was
a waste of time, Ansel rather liked
the feeling that he might, at any time,
have encouraged someone away
from committing a crime, all
without ever knowing it.

So he found his little blue shadow
not threatening, but flattering,
and even a bit charming.

Turq was a reminder for him
to be his best self, and that,
Ansel thought with satisfaction,
most definitely was a sign
of a healthy relationship.

That thought stuck in the back
of Ansel's mind as he went about
his day, buying things that he needed,
saying please and thank you to people,
picking up occasional bits of litter from
the sidewalk and putting them in the trash.

It was there when he went to the class for
advanced bike maintenance and stayed after
to clean up some of the True Blue bicycles,
showing a couple of fatherless teenagers
about wheel truing and how to tighten or
loosen spokes to straighten out a wobble.

So much of what Ansel did was like that --
knowing how society was supposed to work,
and where to tweak things just a little to fix
imbalances in the motion. Twist too hard,
and something would snap, which put you in
for a lot more work than you bargained for.

It was there when Ansel did the presentation
about kidnapping, reminding everyone about
the importance of looking out for each other
as much as themselves, and saw the nods
around the room as the audience agreed.

Sometimes when Ansel went around town,
he caught glimpses of Turq, and other times
he did not. He never knew when he might
see a hint of the teal deer in the park, or
the blue-and-white tail of the caney going
around a corner, or a rangy young man
leaning against a wall with hat in hand.

One blustery day, Turq sidled up to him,
and within a few minutes Ansel realized
that the shivering boy was trying to use him
as a wind block and personal heater.

Turq had wrapped himself in layers
and stuffed his hands in his pockets,
but he didn't have a proper coat.

"Hey there," Ansel said, shifting
his position to block as much
of the wind as possible.

"H-h-hey," Turq said, teeth chattering.

"Cold day today," Ansel observed.

"Yeah," Turq said. "I'd b-be furry,
but I c-can't make money that way,
and I feel b-bad if I st ... scrounge."

Ansel realized that their time
together might be taking away
one of Turq's survival skills before
he'd quite finished replacing it
with something better.

"I'm pretty chilled myself,"
he said. "I'm thinking about
looking for a winter coat."

"Lucky you," Turq said.

"There's always the thrift store,"
Ansel pointed out as they passed it,
because he was fairly sure that Turq
would balk at an offer to buy him a coat.

"T-tried that, but nothing fit," Turq said.

Ansel could believe it, as tall
and skinny as the boy was.

"Well, you can keep checking back,"
he said. "Watch the giveboxes too.
This time of year, plenty of folks put out
their old coat if they buy a new one."

"G-good idea," Turq said.

Anything that got Turq thinking
about the future -- even as simple
as checking regularly for resources --
made Ansel happy at the improvement.

Maybe he could coax it along a little.
"Have you got any other plans?"

Turq shook his head. "Hard enough
j-just dealing with today," he said.
"That's why I like b-being furry. It's
easier to stay now, and not worry
about the p-past or the future."

That was fine as a way of reducing
the damage from his horrible past,
but it also undermined his ability
to build a better future.

As they turned the corner,
Turq's head came up, and
a moment later Ansel caught
the delicious, steamy scent of
spiced pear cider pouring out from
a cart marked Honest Orville's Orchard.

"Oh, I've got to have a cup of that,"
Ansel said. "Do you want one?"

Turq gave a bashful nod.

"We would like two of whatever
your largest size is, please,"
Ansel said to the vendor.

The older man handed over
a pair of enormous paper cups.

Ansel passed both to Turq,
paid for them, thanked the vendor,
and then took his own cup back.

The cider was hot enough
to burn his mouth if he wasn't
careful, so Ansel blew on it
and watched Turq taking
tiny, painful sips of his.

"Thanks," Turq whispered.

"You're welcome," Ansel said.

It didn't take long for the wind
to cool their drinks enough
to savor safely, though, and
the flavor of spiced pears
was a fall favorite.

"The weather's getting colder,
this time of year," Ansel said.
"It might help to think about
safe places to sleep."

"Most of the shelters are indoors,"
Turq said glumly. "I still don't
do well going indoors."

"There's the Perkins Pavilion," Ansel said.

It had started out as structured parking,
then been repurposed as a shelter for
homeless people who, like Turq, found
the indoor shelters uncomfortable.

Turq looked at him, then looked away.
"The gazebo is warmer and drier."

"Then by all means, use the gazebo,"
Ansel said. It wouldn't protect Turq
against the worst of the winter weather,
but it was tolerable enough for autumn.

"Thanks for the offer," Turq said.
"I don't mean to keep mooching
off you, it's just --" He shrugged.

"Well, that gives me an idea,"
Ansel said. "It's easier to plan ahead
if you do it one little piece at a time,
rather than trying to do everything
at once and getting overwhelmed."

Turq gave him a wary look. "Yeah?"

"At least, it's easier for me if I break
a big project into smaller steps," Ansel said.
"So I've got this foyer in my garage, with
mud cubbies built into the corners, which we
usually clean once in spring and once in fall."

"So?" Turq said, sipping his cider.

"I hate cleaning the cubbies," Ansel said,
which was perfectly true. "If I do one and
you do the other, that cuts my chore in half.
I'll pay you for it -- and you're welcome to keep
some of the winter gear that you find in yours.
We always wind up with half a pair of gloves
and hats that don't seem to belong to anyone."

"But it's inside," Turq said softly,
his face pinching at the thought.

"We could prop the door open
while we work, and I'll give you
the cubby that's right beside it,"
Ansel offered. "Then you wouldn't
have to come all the way indoors,
just one small step at a time."

"I don't know," Turq said, fidgeting.

"Give it some thought," Ansel said
as they approached the parking lot
where he had left his car earlier.

Just then, a truck swished past on the street,
sloshing water from a puddle toward them.

Turq cringed away from the frigid spray,
while Ansel stepped forward to shield him
from as much of it as possible. After all, Ansel
had dry clothes at home, and there was
no telling what Turq had or where.

"I'll take it," Turq said, perhaps
spurred on by the icy reminder
of winter's impending threat.

Ansel wanted to shout
and punch the air in triumph,
but he held himself back
to avoid spooking the boy.

"Thank you for saving me
from the terrible fate of cleaning
two muddy cubbies by myself,"
he said as he opened the car door.

"You're welcome," Turq said.

Then he shifted into caney form
and hopped into the car, mindful
of how Ansel felt about seatbelts
for his human passengers.

It wasn't perfect, but it was progress.

* * *


"Trust is the conduit for influence; it's the medium through which ideas travel."
-- Amy Cuddy

Privacy is a basic human need, including location. In T-America, location is considered sensitive information because it can be used to hurt people, so they put far more effort into protecting it. Some people choose to give up part or all of their locational privacy because of their job, but it's still something to think about carefully. There are tips on keeping your movements private.

Relationships can be healthy or unhealthy.  Good ones tend to show some symmetry, although that may take different shapes.  Know the signs of a positive romance or friendship. These are some ways to have a healthy relationship.

Child abuse and other trauma often cause hypervigilance. This can be nerve-wracking for some caregivers, but others see it as an opportunity to model lots of positive behavior. Ansel doesn't mind being watched, because he wants people to pay attention to how he does things. He wouldn't specialize in public outreach if he didn't enjoy serving as a role model this way. Now compare that to the techniques for helping abused children.

is an essential component of influence. The traits of trustworthy people and influential people overlap a lot. Understand how to become a trustworthy person, build trust with someone, and increase your influence.

Role models are important on both personal and social scales. Ideally, police departments should view community service as part of their job, and individual officers should strive to be good role models. There are many ways to make a difference in someone's life, but you may not realize when you are doing it. Know how to be a good role model or choose one to follow.

Bike maintenance ranges from basic steps to advanced ones like truing wheels.

Removing a negative coping skill before replacing it with a positive one can make matters worse, a drawback particularly conspicuous in cases of self-harm. It takes careful thought and time to replace coping skills. Yelling, demanding, or using force don't work and cause a lot of collateral damage. However, it's also possible to knock someone out of cope by accident, which is part of the problem here. Ansel wants Turq to stop stealing and otherwise breaking the law, but does not mean to push that faster than Turq can keep up with, so he's only mentioning it occasionally instead of harping on it. Trouble is, Turq has a good strong stamp of conscience buried under years of abuse, and that's reviving sooner than his tolerance for being around other people in ways conducive to supporting himself legally.

Planning ahead is a vital life skill for children and adults. Turq's fluency with time is impaired by traumatic stress, and it's hard for him to work past that. There are tips for thinking ahead and teaching people about planning skills.

Enjoy a recipe for Spiced Pear Cider.

The Frances Perkins Pavilion Homeless Shelter is named after Frances Perkins (1880–1965) who advocated for Social Security, the minimum wage, workers’ right to unionize, and other social improvements. Structured parking refers to things like parking garages that reach above ground. This place was originally a double-decker parking lot with ground-level parking and then a roof above supporting another layer. So now it makes a semi-sheltered space for homeless people who can't or won't tolerate indoor shelters.

Setting goals is another important life skill. Here is a SMART goal worksheet and a year goal. This page breaks a mid-term goal into smaller practice periods, and here's one for short, medium, and long term goals. Some worksheets consider obstacles and helpers.

Ansel has two mud cubbies in his garage foyer: convenient for organization, but pesky to clean.

The process of breaking large problems into smaller ones can help get more done. Here are some tips for breaking down projects.
Tags: community, cyberfunded creativity, family skills, fantasy, fishbowl, poem, poetry, reading, weblit, writing
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